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France's Duty of Vigilance Law

The 2017 French law on the corporate duty of vigilance places a due diligence duty on large French companies and requires them to publish an annual "vigilance plan." An unofficial English translation of the law is available here and a compilation of resources and analysis as well as an overview of legal actions – both lawsuits and notices – that have been brought under the law to date can be found below.

Scope of the Law

The Law applies to French companies with more than 5000 employees in the company's direct or indirect French-based subsidiaries and with more than 10,000 employees if including direct and indirect subsidiaries globally.

Vigilance Plan

The company's vigilance plan must establish effective measures to identify risks and prevent severe impacts on human rights and the environment resulting from the company's own activities, and the activities of companies it controls directly or indirectly (i.e. subsidiaries as defined by French corporate law), and its subcontractors and suppliers with whom the company has an established commercial relationship, when the activities are linked to this relationship. Measures include risk mapping, tailored actions to mitigate risks or prevent severe impacts, an alert mechanism, and a system to monitor the effectiveness of measures implemented.

Enforcement, Sanctions & Liability

The law provides for a formal notice mechanism to order the company to comply with its vigilance obligations. In case of non-compliance, a court can order the company to comply with its vigilance obligations. This includes ordering the company to develop a vigilance plan when such a plan is missing, or to improve its vigilance measures when these are inadequate. A court may impose a penalty for each day of non-compliance.

The law also provides for civil liability. Under the law, harmed individuals can bring a civil lawsuit (based on French tort law) to seek damages resulting from a company's failure to comply with its vigilance obligations, where compliance would have prevented the harm.

Lawsuits & Formal Notices

Since the law was adopted in 2017, lawsuits have been filed and formal notices have been sent by NGOs to companies. Resources on these legal actions can be found below.

Yves Rocher lawsuit (re workers' rights & trade union rights)

In March 2022, two NGOs and the Turkish union Petrol-Iş filed a lawsuit against Rocher Group over the alleged failure of its Turkish subsidiary, Kosan Kozmetik, to ensure workers' rights and trade union rights

Suez lawsuit (re water contamination in Chile)

In June 2021, four organisations filed a lawsuit against Suez for failing to modify its vigilance plan to include detailed and adequate measures to mitigate and prevent the risk of human rights abuses linked to its subsidiary ESSAL in Chile, following contamination of drinking water in Osorno, Chile.

Casino lawsuit (re deforestation and land grabs)

In March 2021, Amazon indigenous communities and an international NGO coalition filed a lawsuit against supermarket Casino Group over alleged links to deforestation and land grabs.

EDF lawsuit (re wind project in Mexico)

In October 2020, Unión Hidalgo and NGOs filed a lawsuit to challenge EDF’s planned wind farm project in Mexico, alleging that it violates the rights of the local indigenous community, including their right to free, prior and informed consent.

Total lawsuit (re climate change in France)

In January 2020, French NGOs and local authorities filed a lawsuit against Total in an attempt to force the company to dramatically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

Total lawsuit (re oil pipeline operations in Uganda)

In October 2019, six NGOs filed a lawsuit against oil company Total for allegedly failing to comply with the law on oil extraction and pipeline operations in Uganda and Tanzania.

Formal Notices

EDF

In March 2022, Greenpeace gave formal notice on EDF to "cease as soon as possible all business and commercial relations in the nuclear sector contributing to the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Russian state”.

Orano (formerly Areva)

In March 2022, Greenpeace gave formal notice on Orano to "cease as soon as possible all business and commercial relations in the nuclear sector contributing to the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Russian state”.

McDonald's

In March 2022, French and Brazilian unions served formal notice on McDonald's and gave the company three months to publish its vigilance plan to prevent abuse in its supply chain. In France, the organizations accuse the company of failures in taking into account cases of sexual harassment. In Brazil, violations of workers' rights and the environment are at issue.

XPO Logistics Europe

In October 2019, an alliance of unions served formal notice on XPO Logistics Europe, a global transport company, alleging that XPO’s current vigilance plan does not fulfil the mandatory requirements set out by the law, and that the company failed to consult unions in relation to the plan.

Teleperformance

In July 2019, French NGOs and a trade union served formal notice on Teleperformance, a global call center company, alleging that the company has not properly appreciated the risks regarding workers' rights in its vigilance plan and has failed to engage with stakeholders in the development of the plan as required under French law.

Resources

Key additional resources on the French vigilance law and its implementation, including websites, reports, analysis and commentaries.

Our portal on mandatory due diligence

This portal collects the latest news on mandatory human rights due diligence, national and regional developments, public company statements in support of such legislation, guidance for companies and governments, and examples of company implementation of human rights due diligence.

Duty of vigilance radar

This website, by NGOs Sherpa and CCFD-Terre Solidaire with support from the Business & Human Rights Resource Center, identifies companies covered by the law and provides access to their vigilance plans.

France's law on the corporate duty of vigilance: A practical and multidimensional analysis

This legal publication provides in-depth analysis of the law, including articles from academics, lawyers, NGOs and international companies committed to implementing socially responsible practices.

Analysis on first legal cases filed under enforcement mechanism set out in Duty of Vigilance law

This article by lawyers Stéphane Brabant and Elsa Savourey outlines the latest developments under the law and challenges concerning the law's enforcement mechanism.